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The SPARK - December 2019

The Spark. A newsletter filled with information and inspiration for Colorado teachers.

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Katy Anthes headshot during the Thanksgiving holiday message

Dear Teachers,

During this Thanksgiving holiday I took some time to reflect on a meeting I had recently with the Colorado Youth Advisory Council.

This is a group of 40 young people, aged 14 and 19 who attend school in Colorado. The group was created by the legislature to represent Colorado’s 35 state Senate districts plus five at-large seats and advise and make recommendations to elected officials on relevant youth issues.

Their questions and thoughtful suggestions for making education better are evidence that you all are doing an incredible job preparing students to be knowledgeable, inquisitive, respectful, and optimistic participants in our government and our communities. Thank you!

I was so impressed with how articulate and respectful the students were. It gave me hope for the future of our country when all too often national discourse dissolves into partisan talking points.

The students and I had deep discussions about equity in education and how the department could better support schools that have students who are struggling to meet academic expectations. They brought up excellent points about how a school’s label of being low performing can impact the culture inside the building and the mindset of students.

Students are also concerned about their teachers and asked many questions about how teacher salaries are set. The resulting conversations about the Colorado Constitution, the TABOR and Gallagher amendments, and decisions left to local communities gave them  a better understanding of how complex these issues are.

We also talked about expanding options for students who don’t want to go to college right after high school and how the state can support schools and communities that want to expand work-based learning opportunities, including internships and apprenticeships for all students. I couldn’t have agreed more with the suggestion that we figure out a way to provide more students with opportunities like those available through the Cherry Creek Innovation Center and the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools.

We also talked about why the SAT was selected as our college entrance exam, how to make school food programs more eco-friendly, standards for social-emotional learning and current school safety efforts. It was a rich discussion with everyone participating and adding meaningful insights and ideas.

I was inspired by the students on the Colorado Youth Advisory Council. You can learn more about their role and how students can apply to serve on the council here:

Thank you for all you do to support and shape these students and thousands more in our schools who  are growing up to be well-prepared, thoughtful participants in our democracy



Photo of teacher reading to children in classroom

New legislation passed earlier this year requires all kindergarten through third-grade teachers in Colorado to complete training in evidence-based reading by the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

The state has not seen dramatic improvements in reading levels of young children, a goal for state leaders who introduced the READ Act in 2012. So changes were made to the law in the 2019 legislative session to ensure all K-3 teachers have the training they need to support their students. 

A crucial part of teaching kids how to read is using evidence-based instructional practices, so the law now requires teachers to complete and pass training by the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. This will be a one-time requirement for all individual teachers. In subsequent years, new teachers or teachers new to these grade levels in Colorado will need to meet these same requirements.  

The law allows for four options for teachers to show evidence they have met the training requirement. All options require evidence of passing an end-of-course assessment of learning:

  • Included as a course in an approved educator preparation or alternate teacher program, or
  • Included as a course in a post-graduate degree program in teaching reading or literacy, or
  • Provided by CDE or included on the CDE advisory list of professional development programs, or
  • ·Provided by a district and is appropriate for license renewal.

Rules provide the State Board of Education with an opportunity to elaborate on the law.  With recognition that teachers may have developed the requisite content knowledge through multiple sources or may not be able to provide documentation of passing a course or end-of-course assessment, the draft rules include a provision allowing teachers to demonstrate the training they have received by passing a state assessment of knowledge required to teach reading. 

The law also requires CDE to provide training in evidence-based reading at no cost to districts that request it. CDE is currently in the process of reviewing proposals from publishers of training programs and will begin delivering the training across the state starting in spring 2020. The department anticipates providing information about how to request training starting in late February.

CDE is also in the process of determining the most streamlined approach possible for teachers to provide documentation of meeting the training requirements. The department is working to enable teachers to submit this one-time documentation starting with the launch of the new eLicensing system.

The State Board of Education has noticed rulemaking for the READ Act rules including those related to teacher training. The state board will conduct rulemaking hearings at its January and February meetings. Public comment on the rules will be heard at rulemaking hearings, and individuals can submit comments at

Colorado Department of Education District and School Awards 2019

Hundreds of schools and dozens of school districts were honored Nov. 18th during the annual awards ceremony that recognizes and celebrates 2019 performance accomplishments. 

Districts and schools received banners, kudos and fist bumps with Commissioner Katy Anthes and State Board of Education members for their awards.

"It is a privilege to be able to recognize the hard work going on every day in our schools that make these awards happen," Anthes said. "Each one of these commemorations represents the dedication of an untold number of administrators, teachers, support staff, students and parents. By acknowledging great work, we move closer to establishing best practices and get closer to finding ways to abolishing the equity gaps that have had a grip on our state's education for too long." 

Among the awards, 19 schools in nine school districts were honored with the Centers of Excellence Award that demonstrates the highest sustained rates of student longitudinal growth as measured by the Colorado Growth Model among those that have at least 75% at-risk students.

The event also recognized Districts Accredited with Distinction and recipients of the Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award, High School Academic Growth Award, John Irwin School of Excellence and National Blue Ribbon Schools.

Click here to download a spreadsheet of all of the 2019 winners (XLS).


TLCC Teaching and Learning Conditions Colorado

Every other year, Colorado teachers have the opportunity to participate in the Teaching and Learning Conditions Colorado (TLCC) survey to anonymously share their opinions on work environments and career satisfaction.

The TLCC survey will open shortly after the beginning of the new year. And district and school leaders across the state hope to receive more responses from teachers during the 2020 distribution than in previous tests. In 2018, more than 35,000 educators responded – which is more than half of the 68,000 teachers statewide. Because of the high response rate, we learned that a majority of Colorado teachers think their schools are good places to work and for their students to learn. However, we also know teachers experience continued obstacles to do their jobs. With more than six years of results, we consistently see that a lack of time to prepare for instruction, few professional development opportunities and little support for new teachers are some of the biggest obstacles.

Colorado Commissioner of Education Katy Anthes is also hoping to use feedback from the TLCC to inform her work at the state-level.

"A new decade is an opportunity to find new, exciting ways to make Colorado the best state for teachers, and the TLCC survey is one of the best channels for teachers to let us know what they need to be successful,” Commissioner Anthes said.

“We have seen a disheartening decline in the number of students becoming teachers in rural areas and in key subjects like math, science and special education. Through opportunities like the TLCC, we find ways to encourage teachers to stay in their classrooms while attracting students to the profession. Whether it’s through peer mentoring programs or computer science professional development courses, we want to support teachers with what they need to excel.”

The survey will be open from Wednesday, Jan. 22, until Friday, Feb. 21. Schools and districts will need more than 50% participation and at least five responses to access their data from the TLCC. When the survey window opens, each respondent will receive a unique, anonymous code from their teacher association representative or principal.

For more information and resources, visit the TLCC website.


Photo of Teacher of the Year 2019 Meg Cypress at Space Camp


As Meg Cypress’ term as Colorado’s Teacher of the Year comes to an end, we asked her to reflect on 2019. Cypress is a fifth-grade teacher at Denver’s Bradley International School. 

The Spark: Have you had fun as Colorado’s Teacher of the Year? What were the highlights?
Meg Cypress:  This year has been amazing, so much fun – packed with  with traveling, speaking, learning and tremendous experiences.  After the announcement, the year started off with a bang! The Google complex in San Jose hosted me on my first stop as Colorado’s Teacher of the Year.  This is where I met all of the National Teachers of the Year and learned about connecting self, policy, and practice to uncover how to lead for equity. Next, I traveled to Washington D.C., to meet President Trump, eat breakfast at the vice president’s house hosted by Second Lady Karen Pence, and learned more about policy in education.  Huntsville, Ala., was the next stop as I played along with my new teacher of the year friends at NASA’s Space Camp. The week was extra special because it was the 50th anniversary of Apollo’s moon landing.  Parades, parties, moon jumping, simulations to land the Space Shuttle, and project ideas to bring back to my classroom were the focus of the week.  Finally, flying to Princeton, N.J., to meet about next steps as a Teacher of the Year and how to use that platform to continue to make education better for all Colorado students.  Looking forward to the last stop as your Teacher of the Year in New Orleans at the 2020 College Football Championship game in January!

The Spark: What have you learned through this past year?
Cypress: I have learned that there are amazing teachers all over the state of Colorado and around the country. I have learned that education matters to everyone, and all people are striving to make it better. More than anything else, I learned that I love my job and am very lucky to be in a position not only as a teacher but as a change maker.

The Spark: What do you have planned next?
Cypress: My work this year has opened my eyes to the struggles in education.  I look forward to continuing my work on the issues of teacher retention and teacher shortages. I want to  continue spreading the word about the teaching profession as the very BEST job! I want to work on ways to celebrate teachers for the work we do. I will continue to push harder for the Teacher of the Year program and increasing the number of applicants every year. In addition, continuing the work around equity the classroom will be a focus for my next plans.

The Spark: What would you say to teachers who are thinking of nominating themselves or others to be Teacher of the Year?
Cypress: Make sure you nominate! This experience has been a gift. Every part of the process has made me a better teacher and helped me reflect on my practice.  You have a story! You have a passion. Let us hear it. Nominate yourself or a peer to be our next Teacher of the Year. We need to hear all voices and need to hear the stories of all students. This is an opportunity to share what you know, what you are proud of, and what matters to you in education.

The Spark:  After serving as the chief spokeswoman for Colorado’s teachers, what do you think the main issues are for the state’s educators?
Cypress: As a state, we need to continue the work around equity, teacher retention, teacher shortages, and celebrating the work of teachers.

The Spark: What is the most surprising thing you learned while serving as Teacher of the Year?
Cypress: The most surprising part of the year was talking and learning more from every player in the educational game. Each conversation led me to a place of inspiration and awe. I have watched exceptional teaching, been motivated by innovative leaders, and collaborated with teachers around the United States to make practices better for all students.

The Spark: As your stint comes to an end, is there anything you want to say to the state’s teachers?
Cypress: Thank you for allowing me to represent you as the 2019 Colorado Teacher of the Year. Continue the hard work you are doing to make education the best it can be in Colorado. Every teacher has the power to impact the world, so let’s use that power to ensure an exceptional education for all children in Colorado.


Computer Science Education Week

Fifteen thousand, one hundred and eighty-eight. That’s the number of open computing jobs in our state. And the number of computer science graduates who can take on those roles? Only 1,021.

These numbers are both taken from, an organization that promotes computer science education and works to inspire K-12 students around the world to pursue an interest in computer science.

The organization also promotes Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) each year, with more than 71,000 CSEdWeek and Hour of Code events happening around the world this year. For more information on the national week’s events, visit

But what are we doing to promote computer science education all year round?

The Colorado Department of Education administers a grant program specifically for computer science teacher professional development. Districts apply on behalf of teachers for one of three options:

  1. A state approved training program at no cost to elementary teachers. This is available in all regions of the state, and participating teachers qualify for a stipend of up to $150.
  2. A professional development program chosen by the district for elementary teachers in their schools who apply.
  3. Professional development chosen by the school district for which all K-12 teachers can participate. Grant funds for options 2 and 3 can be used to cover tuition fees for college courses, in addition to other allowable expenses..

In the 2018-19 school year, 67 grants were awarded totaling $857,699. Based on information currently reported from districts, a total of 1,166 teachers have been trained through the CSEd grant program since the 2017-18 school year, not including the teachers who will receive training through the end of this year. Based upon data reported by the grantees, those trained teachers will impact approximately 62,900 students in Colorado’s public schools.

As a state, we still have work to do to ensure our students are prepared for the computer science career pathways opening up at a rapid rate across our state.

For more resources, visit the online Computer Science Resource Bank. This free resource was created through a collaboration with educators and industry experts. It includes sample curricula and materials – even information about scholarships for students.

For more information, visit the Computer Science Education Grants for Teachers webpage or contact Chris Summers at or 720-648-3909.


Photo of Marie Greenwood at State Board meeting

We are saddened about the passing of a Colorado teaching icon, Marie L. Greenwood, who was a pioneering African American school teacher. 

Greenwood died Nov. 15, 2019, nine days before her 107th birthday. She holds the honor of being the first black contracted teacher in Denver Public Schools, which opened the doors for many after her. 

Greenwood was still practicing the craft a few days before she died, visiting the Montbello school that bears her name and telling students to “do what you love, and be the best at it. If you reach for the stars, at least you'll hit the treetops."

In February 2017, the Colorado State Board of Education honored Ms. Greenwood with a proclamation, commending her for her dedication to education. 

Inspired by her parents to always do her best and by her love of reading, Greenwood graduated third in her class of 357 students at West High School in 1931. She earned a scholarship to attend the Colorado Teachers College, which became the University of Northern Colorado.

Greenwood graduated college with a minor in primary education in 1935 and returned to Denver to teach at Whittier Elementary School for 10 years before resigning to raise a family. 

Twenty years later she was urged to return to teaching by the principal of the all-white Newlon Elementary School. At the time, black teachers only taught in northeast Denver schools. Greenwood took the job and held it for 19 more years, breaking barriers. 

Greenwood continued to work to open the doors for others, serving on a school district committee that studied racial inequities in education. She was also part of an interracial group in the 1940s that brought legal action against restaurants and shops that refused to serve black people. 

Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said that Greenwood leaves a legacy that is a testament to the power of education.

“Ms. Greenwood was such a kind and gentle force who fought for good and provided meaningful education for hundreds of children,” Anthes said. “I was proud to meet her and congratulate her in 2017. Her legacy will endure as her story becomes a part of the history of Colorado and the integration of our teaching force.”

Watch a video that DPS created, celebrating Greenwood’s 106 birthday.

Read more about Ms. Greenwood on the Friends of Marie L. Greenwood webpage.



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Colorado Educator Loan Forgiveness Program​

Teachers, principals and special service providers can receive an annual payment of up to $5,000 towards their qualified higher education loans balance for up to five years. The application will open Tuesday, Dec. 10. 

Visit the Colorado Department of Higher Education's website to learn more.


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